southwest service animal

Southwest Airlines’ Shocking Service Dog Policy: Is Your Furry Friend Allowed? 🤯🐾

Southwest service animal policies have undergone significant changes, affecting pet owners and their trained service animals. This blog post will delve into the details of these modifications, providing valuable insights for those planning to travel with their service dogs on Southwest Airlines®.

We’ll explore the U.S DOT Service Animal Air Travel Form’s role in ensuring your furry friend can accompany you onboard a Southwest operated flight. We’ll also discuss the legalities behind traveling with a service dog, shedding light on what every responsible pet owner should know.

The revised policies regarding Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are another key focus of our discussion. You’ll learn about how this pet flight policy change impacts travelers who rely on ESAs and why Southwest Airlines decided to make such a drastic shift.

Amid pandemic uncertainties, we’ll touch upon ‘Southwest® Promise’ that has been designed keeping customer safety as top priority and its new additions to flight routes during these challenging times. Additionally, we’ll share an inspiring story of Kaya – a dedicated southwest service animal that made headlines recently.

Last but not least; special arrangements by airlines for ill-service dogs during transit periods or layovers will be highlighted – because every detail counts when it comes to your beloved companion’s comfort and wellbeing!

Southwest Airlines and Service Animals

When it comes to accommodating passengers with service animals, Southwest Airlines is a top contender in the air travel industry. They’re committed to making flying accessible for everyone, no matter the challenges they may face.

travel with service pets on Southwest Airlines

The Importance of the U.S DOT Service Animal Air Travel Form

Before flying with a trained service dog, passengers must complete and present the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal Air Travel Form. This form attests that the animal is a legitimate service dog trained to perform tasks or work for an individual with a disability.

The Legalities of Traveling with a Service Dog

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) requires airlines to allow individuals with disabilities and their accompanying service animals on board without charging additional fees. However, certain documentation requirements must be met beforehand, including proof that the pet is certified as per regulations stipulated under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Southwest’s policies are clear: if you’re bringing your furry friend along for the journey, they need to be properly documented as either a psychiatric or emotional support animal. This includes filling out necessary paperwork and providing valid identification from a recognized training organization or a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating the necessity of having the animal accompany the passenger during flights.

To ensure smooth travels, Southwest recommends checking in at least two hours before departure time so all necessary procedures can be completed without hassle. It’s essential to abide by the regulations in order to guarantee a pleasant journey for all passengers on board.

Changes in Policies Regarding Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Big news for pet owners who love to travel. Southwest Airlines has stopped accepting emotional support animals (ESAs) onboard their aircrafts. This change was implemented to guarantee the well-being and convenience of all travelers. But don’t worry, trained service dogs are still allowed under the Air Carrier Access Act.

travel with your service dog on Southwest Airlines

Impact on Travelers Who Rely on ESAs

If you’re someone who depends on an ESA for emotional or psychiatric support, you’ll need to explore other options now. One possibility is getting your pet certified as a psychiatric service dog if they meet certain criteria and undergo specific training. The American Kennel Club provides useful information about this process.

Reasons Behind the Policy Change

This change came into effect due to increasing concerns about untrained pets causing disruptions or posing threats to passenger safety during flights. In addition, some passengers attempted to misuse lenient ESA policies just so they could fly with their pets free-of-charge. Airlines like Southwest had no choice but to take action against such misuses by tightening up rules around flying with animals aboard planes.

Remember, the goal is always ensuring a safe and comfortable journey for everyone involved – both humans and animals alike.

The ‘Southwest® Promise’ Amid Pandemic Uncertainties

Amidst the pandemic’s pandemonium, Southwest Airlines has pledged to place its passengers’ welfare and contentment first. This pledge, known as the ‘Southwest® Promise’, was issued in May 2023 to assure passengers that their safety and health are of utmost importance.

Key Elements of the ‘Southwest® Promise’

The promise includes enhanced cleaning procedures on all aircraft and airports where Southwest operates. Passengers are expected to wear masks throughout their journey, except when eating or drinking. Physical distancing measures have also been implemented during boarding and deplaning processes.

In addition, Southwest uses HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters onboard that remove 99.97% of airborne particles, similar to technology found in hospitals. The airline also ensures limited person-to-person contact by using digital boarding passes and encouraging cashless transactions at airport facilities such as ticket counters and gates.

New Flight Routes Added Amid Pandemic

Despite pandemic challenges, Southwest has expanded its reach across North America by adding new destinations to its flight routes. These include Palm Springs in California, Miami International Airport, Montrose Regional Airport serving the Telluride area during the winter season, and Steamboat Springs via Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

This expansion aims to provide more travel options for customers while adhering strictly to safety protocols outlined on the COVID-19 Travel Information page.

Story of Kaya: A Dedicated Service Dog Onboard

The tale of Kaya, a German Shepherd service dog, and her human companion, Cole, a Marine Corps veteran, exemplifies the invaluable role these four-legged friends play in our lives. This story is an inspiring testament to the bond between humans and their service animals.

The Bond Between Cole and His Faithful Companion, Kaya

Cole served in the U.S. Marine Corps and suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To help him cope with daily life, he got Kaya, who was trained to provide emotional support during moments of anxiety or distress. Kaya was far more than a mere helper; she had become Cole’s closest companion.

Kaya accompanied Cole on over 250 flights across various airlines, including Southwest Airlines. She was always there by his side, providing comfort during air travels, which can often be stressful for individuals dealing with PTSD.

Unfortunately, Kaya fell ill due to cancer and had limited mobility towards the end of her life, but this did not deter her spirit nor commitment towards serving Cole faithfully even amidst personal discomforts. In fact, it further strengthened their bond as they navigated through these tough times together.

Southwest’s Dedication Towards Making Air Travel Accessible For Everyone

In response to Kaya’s deteriorating health condition, Southwest Airlines went above and beyond by making special arrangements, such as providing mobility assistance carts, ensuring both passengers’ comfort throughout transit periods or layovers without any additional charges. These measures reflect the airline’s dedication towards making air travel accessible for everyone, irrespective of challenges faced en route.

This story demonstrates how crucially important service dogs like Kaya are for those struggling with mental health issues like PTSD while also highlighting airlines’ responsibility in accommodating them onboard. It brings forth another dimension about air travels that goes beyond mere transportation – it is about empathy, compassion, and inclusivity too.


Key Takeaway: Kaya, a German Shepherd service dog, accompanied Cole, a Marine Corps veteran suffering from PTSD on over 250 flights across various airlines including Southwest Airlines. As Kaya fell ill due to cancer and had limited mobility towards the end of her life, Southwest Airlines made special arrangements such as providing mobility assistance carts to ensure both passengers’ comfort throughout transit periods or layovers without any additional charges. This story highlights the invaluable role that service dogs play in our lives while also emphasizing airlines’ responsibility in accommodating them onboard.

Special Arrangements for Ill-Service Dogs by Airlines

Airlines, like Southwest, go above and beyond to ensure the comfort of service animals during air travel. These special arrangements are especially crucial for ill-service dogs who may require additional assistance or accommodations.

Special Measures Taken by Airlines During Transit Periods or Layovers

In cases where a layover is necessary, airlines take extra measures to ensure that service animals are well taken care of. This includes providing mobility assistance carts for ill-service dogs who might struggle with walking long distances in airports. The Southwest’s Customers with Disabilities Policy outlines these services in detail.

Besides this, there are also provisions made for feeding and hydrating the animal during transit periods. Some airlines even have designated pet relief areas within their terminals to cater to the needs of these furry companions.

The airline staff is trained on how to handle service animals appropriately – ensuring they’re safe and comfortable throughout their journey. From assisting them onto the plane using specially designed ramps or lifts, making sure they’re securely placed during flight; everything is meticulously planned out.

Mobility Assistance Carts: A Boon for Service Animals

Mobility assistance carts provided by some airlines can be a lifesaver for ill-service dogs struggling with mobility issues due to age or illness. These carts allow them to move around comfortably without exerting themselves excessively.

Pet Relief Areas: Ensuring Comfort During Layovers

Layovers can be stressful not just for passengers but also their accompanying service animals. Pet relief areas set up at various airport terminals provide an area where pets can relieve themselves, stretch their legs, and get some fresh air before boarding another flight.

How do you handle any negative reactions from other passengers when traveling with a service dog?

As a traveler with a service dog, I’ve encountered my fair share of situations where other passengers might react negatively to my service pet. These reactions can be caused by a lack of understanding about service dogs, fear of dogs, allergies, or simply not being used to seeing dogs on public transportation. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with a plan to handle negative reactions and ensure a smooth journey for both you and your service dog.

1. Be prepared. Before embarking on your trip, make sure you have all the necessary documentation for your service dog, such as identification cards, your service animal vest, and any required paperwork. This will help you provide proof if needed and can alleviate concerns from airline staff or fellow passengers.

2. Educate with kindness. When faced with a negative reaction, calmly and politely explain the role of your service dog and the difference between a pet and a service dog. Share how your service dog has been trained to assist you and emphasize the legal rights you have to travel with your service dog.

3. Stay calm and composed. It’s important to remain calm even when others might not be. By maintaining your composure, you can help de-escalate the situation and prevent it from escalating further.

4. Seek assistance from airline staff. If a passenger becomes too aggressive or continues to express their discomfort, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from the nearest gate agent or airline employees. They are trained to handle such situations and can help mediate or find an alternative seating arrangement if necessary.

5. Offer solutions. If someone is concerned about allergies or fear of dogs, try offering solutions such as moving to another seat or placing a barrier between your service dog and the concerned passenger. This shows that you’re willing to work together to find a solution that works for everyone.

6. Know your rights. Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations surrounding service dogs, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This knowledge will empower you to advocate for your rights should any issues arise.

7. Connect with fellow travelers with service dogs. Join online communities or social media groups where you can share experiences, tips, and advice with others who travel with their service dogs. This will not only help you feel more confident but also create a support network for future travels.

Southwest Service Animal FAQs

Can you bring trained service dogs on Southwest Airlines flights?

Yes, Southwest Airlines is known for its accommodating policies towards service animals, allowing trained service dogs to accompany their owners in the cabin at no extra charge.

Passengers must complete a U.S DOT Service Animal Air Travel Form before travel. Learn more about Southwest’s policy here.

Did The Southwest Service Animal policy on emotional support animals change in 2023?

Yes, in line with new federal regulations effective from March 1st, 2023, Southwest only recognizes trained psychiatric and mobility assistance dogs as legitimate ‘service’ animals. More details can be found here.

Do emotional support dogs fly for free on Southwest Airlines?

No, starting from March 2023, such pets are considered part of the pet fare program and will require an additional fee. Check out the Pet Fare Program here.

Get Your Dog Certified as A Service Dog

The Southwest service animal policies prove to be an invaluable resource for service animal owners, making it possible for them to fly with their companions, and considering the unique needs of specific psychiatric service dogs, like Kaya. With its rigorous safety measures against Covid-19, enhanced cleaning routines, and commitment to ACAA standards, Southwest is leading the effort in providing secure and comfortable flights for both passengers and animals alike.

From upholding the U.S DOT Service Animal Air Travel Form regulations to being mindful of emotional support animals, dedicated processes are put in place to allow caregivers/owners a safe journey. For the millions who depend on service dogs, having trustworthy airlines that provide exceptional amenities during transit periods or long layovers can make such a significant difference – and Southwest exemplifies just that! 

So if you are someone in need of a Service Animal or just want to learn more about it. getting your canine certified today through us here at Service Pets will have a lasting impression on their lives as well as yours!

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